Residents say drugs are taking over Old Town

Residents say drugs are taking over Old Town

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by KGW Reporter Chris Willis

Bio | Email | Follow: @ChrisWillisKGW

kgw.com

Posted on August 2, 2013 at 9:07 AM

Updated Friday, Aug 2 at 2:30 PM

PORTLAND -- Some people who live in Portland's Old Town say drug use is taking over their neighborhood.

Joseph Aparicio contacted Unit 8 to say he couldn’t walk the streets between Northwest 6th Avenue and Flanders Street without encountering drug use and drug dealing. And it was happening, he said, in broad daylight.

“People smoking crack in doorways, or not even in doorways, under covered blankets and stuff, it’s just blatant,” he said.

Trips to the corner store have become unbearable and when he walks the streets to catch a bus each day, he is overcome by people cutting and selling crack, Aparicio said.

“With a towel over her head,” he said of a recent encounter, "and as soon as the towel come out, you saw the pipe in her mouth and the lighter in the other hand."

Other residents in Old Town said it happens to them too.

“I'm encountering people divvying up their crack rocks, doing deals," said Nicholas Helmberger, who lives nearby.

Business owners in Old Town said the problem is hurting business.

“It’s a lot of crime, it’s a lot of drug activity, you know, just from here if you look outside at that garage, you can see drug deals every single day,” said Robert Jungic, who runs the Monte Rossa Café. Jungic has been there for seven years and said lately when customers come within two blocks of Old Town, they see the crime and turn away.

Police said drug use in Old Town has been an ongoing battle for decades.

“Old Town, unfortunately, has seen a long history of street-level drug traffic," said Sgt. Pete Simpson of the Portland Police Bureau. “The challenge is, with a limited number of resources, we focus on one area, deal with the problem, but then it pushes it to a little bit different area.”

PPB's Central Precinct and Street Crimes Unit have been fighting the drug problem in Old Town for years. Drug dealers know police resources get pulled to other calls in other parts of town. And when progress is made, the drug activity often just moves a block or two away. But the problem is on the PPB's radar.

“Well we've pretty much chased them away from here,” said Paul Fujita, whose business, Cal Skate Skateboards, has been on Northwest 6th Avenue for 37 years. Fujita agreed the problem hurts business, but said the police presence makes a difference. “A whole segment of people, they refuse to come downtown. They don't want to, it’s a hassle and it's gross.”

Aparicio, meanwhile, said he hopes the combination of business owners, residents and a police presence will make a difference. “I'd like to see it fixed up, you know.”

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